Civil society is the key component of the EU accession process: read our report from study visit to Brussels

Ivanka Mihailović

04. April 2014

Civil society is the key component of the EU accession process: read our report from study visit to Brussels

From 23 to 29 March, in cooperation with the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) Serbia, we have organized a study visit to Brussels for representatives of CSOs – grantees of the Civil Society Forward (CSF) program.

Participants were informed about the work and functioning of Brussels-based institutions, they met with numerous officials and held some exceptionally useful meetings regarding the organizational and financial sustainability of civil society in Serbia.

During the discussions, Serbian NGO representatives showed a particular interest in a broader geo-political context. Friendly Diogo Pinto, Secretary General of the European Movement in Brussels, talked for nearly two hours about the concept of ‘wider Europe’ advocated by his organization. He also mentioned the effects of security in Ukraine for the further enlargement and foreign policy of the European Union.

 

With Michael Leigh, former director general of DG Enlaregement, we talked about the future of the European Union and its foreign and neighborhood policy. Michael Leigh has thirty years of experience while working in EU institutions of on decision-making positions. Based on this experience we asked Mr Leigh about his perception of the future of Europe after the accession of Balkan countries, about the EU expansion on East and how much political and military relations with USA influence policies made in Brussels.

‘Civil society is a key component of the Serbia’s accession process’, said Jean Eric Paquet.

‘Civil society is a key component of the Serbia’s accession process’, said Jean Eric Paquet, head of the sector for Serbia in DG Enlargement. In the European Commission, we have started a debate on NGO joint efforts on lobbing for important issues that need to be integrated in Progress Report.

Our interlocutors also had questions for representatives of NGOs. We were asked to which extent NGOs are involved in the planning of pre-accession assistance for Serbia, what is the role of the European Convent and who will take part in technical negotiation teams.

The future of the NGO sector in Serbia was the third major theme of the study visit. In the King Badouin Foundation, we talked about individual philanthropy in Serbia and why people in Serbia easily give money to charity, but hardly to CSOs that represents their ideas. In Trialog organization, we learned what European CSOs do in development cooperation and development education. We asked our hosts how long did it take Central and Eastern European NGOs to transform their work into service providers working in new regions.

Finally, a very impressive meeting was held with Sandra Petrovic Jakovina, Member of the European Parliament and BFPE alumna of the RAD program. She told us about rights and experiences of young mothers MEPs, about the decision of the European Parliament not to support the equalization of wages between women and men, and told us her personal commitment and help to interest groups active in Croatia.